The goal of NRCS NEAP is to develop strategies to monitor, adaptively manage and ensure compliance of NRCS easements enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP), Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), and the Emergency Watershed Protection Program-Floodplain Easements (EWPP-FPE).



USDA NRCS Conservation Easement Programs

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

The Wetlands Reserve Program provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Tribes to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands and adjacent areas important to the ecological functions of these wetlands. This program has restored large tracts of wetlands including projects that exceed 10,000 acres in size. Over 2 million acres are currently enrolled in WRP. This program’s impact on wetland dependent wildlife is significant. The 2008 Farm Bill reauthorized WRP and established a new acreage cap of 3,014,200 acres by 2012.

The fundamental objective of WRP is to protect, restore, and enhance the functions and values of wetland ecosystems to attain:

    1. Habitat for migratory birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife, including threatened and endangered species and species of concern

    2. Protection and improvement of water quality

    3. Attenuation of floodwater

    4. Recharge of groundwater

    5. Protection and enhancement of open space and aesthetic quality

    6. Protection of native flora and fauna contributing to the Nation’s natural heritage

    7. Contribution to educational and scientific scholarship

    Emergency Watershed Protection Program - Floodplain Easement (EWPP-FPE)

    The Emergency Watershed Protection Program was amended under Section 382 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, Public Law 104-127, to provide for the purchase of floodplain easements as an emergency measure. Since 1996, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has purchased floodplain easements on lands that qualify for EWPP assistance. Floodplain easements restore, protect, maintain, and enhance the functions of the floodplain; conserve natural values including fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, flood water retention, ground water recharge, and open space; reduce long-term federal disaster assistance; and safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and the products of erosion.

    The fundamental objective of EWPP-FPE is to help landowners, operators, and individuals implement emergency recovery measures to relieve imminent hazards to life or property created by a natural disaster that causes a sudden impairment of a watershed.  Floodplain easements:

      1. Restore, protect, maintain, and enhance the functions of the floodplain

        1. Restore the hydraulic capacity of the natural environment

        2. Allow for the natural reach and flow of floods on the floodplain
      2. Conserve natural values, including:

        1. fish and wildlife habitat

        2. water quality

        3. flood water retention

        4. ground water recharge

        5. open space

      1. Reduce long-term federal disaster assistance

      2. Safeguard lives and property from floods, drought, and the products of erosion

      Healthy Forests Reserve Program (HFRP)

      The purpose of the Healthy Forests Reserve Program is to restore and protect forest ecosystems to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, candidate species, and state-listed and/or species of special concern. Additional consideration for enrollment can be given to eligible land that will improve plant and animal biodiversity and optimize carbon sequestration in the forest ecosystem. Safe Harbor provisions of the Endangered Species Act or Candidate Conservation Agreements are sought for participants enrolled in the HFRP who agree, for a specified period, to restore or improve their land for threatened or endangered species habitat. In exchange, they minimize the impacts of future regulatory restrictions on the use of that land.

      The fundamental objective of HFRP is to assist landowners, on a voluntary basis, in restoring, enhancing, and protecting forestland resources on private lands.

      1. Promote the recovery of endangered and threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)

      2. Improve plant and animal biodiversity

      3. Enhance carbon sequestration

      Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)

      The purpose of the Grassland Reserve Program is to assist landowners and operators to protect grazing uses and related conservation values by conserving and restoring grassland resources on eligible private lands through rental contracts and easements. GRP emphasizes supporting grazing operations; maintaining and improving plant and animal biodiversity; and protecting grasslands and shrublands from the threat of conversion to uses other than grazing. As of 2008, there are 250 easements covering more than 115,000 acres in 38 states. The 2008 Farm Bill authorized an additional 1.2 million acres by 2012, thus allowing over a million more acres to enter the program.

      The fundamental objective of GRP is to support grazing uses and related conservation values.

      1. Support of grazing operations

      2. Maintaining and improving plant and animal biodiversity

      3. Protecting grasslands and shrublands under threat of conversion to cropping, urban development, and other non-grazing uses

      Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP)

      The Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, USDA partners with State, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value of the conservation easement.

      The fundamental objective of FRPP is to protect agricultural use and related conservation values of eligible land by limiting nonagricultural uses of the land.

        1. Protect agricultural productivity by limiting nonagricultural uses of land

        2. Preserve farmland for future generations

        3. Promote prime, unique, or statewide or locally important soils, land containing historic or archaeological sites from conversion to nonagricultural uses, and land that furthers State and local farm and ranch lands protection program policies

Contact Info:

National Easement Assessment Project
Attn: Dr. Katie Edwards
274 Ellington Plant Sciences Bldg
Knoxville, TN 37996-4563
865.946.1142 [ofc]
865.974.4714 [fax]